Domestic abuse shelter seeking additional space

New program highlights high-risk cases

For most enterprises, the need to expand would be considered a good thing, but if the business provides services to victims of domestic violence, it could also be considered a sad commentary on society.

The Safe Haven Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Support Center in Shawano has been operating for some time at maximum capacity. It will soon kick off a fundraising campaign aimed at adding space to the shelter.

“For a community our size, we have a lot of need,” Executive Director Stacey Cicero said.

The shelter has five bedrooms, and none of them are ever empty, according to Cicero. In some cases, families have shared the bedrooms.

Last year, the shelter provided safe housing for 55 woman and 67 children, with an average length of stay of 27.3 days and 3,385 bed nights, according to information provided by Safe Haven.

Advocates answered 2,064 crisis calls and met with 514 victims.

Cicero said the increasing calls for help might be partly due to increased awareness that services are available.

“It’s not that domestic violence is getting worse, but people are finally reaching out for help,” she said.

The shelter has also seen an increase in high-risk domestic violence situations since the implementation in January of its Lethality Assessment Program.

City and county law enforcement routinely referred domestic abuse cases to the shelter, but in January they added a questionnaire that sought to assess just how dangerous the domestic situations might be, and whether they could end in homicide.

Safe Haven and local law enforcement joined together to apply for a grant to receive training in the program.

Cicero said the number of referrals to Safe Haven as a result of the lethality assessments has been “astounding.”

Through the end of June, 48 percent of domestic violence calls in the city have fallen into the high-risk category. In the county, 56 percent met that criteria.

Questions asked in the assessment include whether the alleged abuser owns a weapon, has ever choked the victim or abused their children.

Cicero said the questionnaire provides a much clearer picture of the domestic situation, allowing for another tool for counseling; provides a higher probability of gaining a restraining order; and can be used as evidence in prosecution.

The Safe Haven shelter is in its 15th year of operation, though outreach and counseling services have been provided going back 10 years before the shelter was established.

The shelter is looking to add three more bedrooms and additional office space, or about 2,000 square feet to its facility.

In addition to providing more space for clients, it will give the shelter more room for outreach and counseling.

The shelter has set a goal of raising $425,000, and will kick off its fundraising campaign Sept. 28 at The Gathering in Shawano.